Saturday, October 26, 2013
Evil lurks in the city. I never stop looking over my shoulder. I wouldn’t want to meet it face-to-face. It congregates in places where you might least expect it; lurking in dark allies and hiding in drainage ditches.
The city is filled with buildings; some very tall and others short. There are lots of houses. In the past decade I have noticed homes torn down and townhouses built. Apartment buildings are turned into condominiums. Some affordable senior housing is popping up. More people are being packed into the city. More evil abounds.
There are shopping centers and strip malls, although they are both suffering because of the faltering economy. There is asphalt – lots of asphalt. I wonder who owns the companies that provide all that asphalt. They must be the people who live in the big expensive houses. Is evil there as well?
Children’s happy screams, poetic games and rhythmic songs can be heard from the parks that dot the city. In contrast, poor and homeless people live in our parks. Evil also lives in the parks.
This is the place where I have lived almost my entire life. It is home. Some good, some not so good, but it is home. I don’t remember this evil when I was growing up. Was I just naive?
I have always had cats, mainly because I don’t like mice. My old wonderful cat Putter went missing. Next my son’s cat Leo disappeared. I must be careful and protect my little toy poodle, Barkley.
Who is this creature prowling our neighborhoods who has infiltrated our city? Some would say they are cute. Ha! Cute is their disguise! And, now it appears that one has taken up residence in my house....yes, she's a cute little raccoon. Barkley, beware!
Saturday, October 12, 2013
I have lived in the same house just a couple years short of forty. When I was shopping for it one of the “must have’s” was laundry inside the house. If I were to move it would be a deal breaker if the laundry was in the garage.
I can’t go into a garage without feeling intense fear. Just before I enter I peak into the garage and mentally chart my path; both going in and getting out. I open the door wide open to ensure there is nothing behind it. I take a deep breath and make myself do it. I make it as quick as possible. Intellectually, I know how unrealistic I am. Emotionally, I can’t help it.
Sometimes I wonder if people understand that the movies children see can leave them with a lifetime of fear. I have no idea what movie it was that gave me this lifetime of intense garage fear, but I do remember the scene. It was a basement scene where a woman was doing laundry. A man entered with a knife. There was only one way in and out of the basement. He was blocking that way. No one would hear her scream. She was trapped. My palms sweat just thinking about the intensity of the moment. She died. When I was growing up I lived in several houses. Our laundry was always located in the garage. That was the connection.
One time I stayed overnight with Krissy, my cousin. Aunt Pat took us to see Cyclops. It was one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen. I looked it up on the internet. There is a trailer on YouTube The trailer is ridiculously silly now, but it wasn't silly in 1957. I don’t remember too much other than trying to be brave and not show how scared I was. I wonder if she knew. I wonder if Krissy was afraid. I wonder why we didn’t leave? This is an intense memory. Even today, I will not watch movies with blood in them and suspense drives me from the room.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
For the past two years, I have spent one night a week travelling the world. I have been to Turkey, Iran, Mongolia, Japan, China, Kenya, Ghana, Korea, Ukraine, Palestine, Syria, Nigeria, Russia, Cameroon, Bulgaria, Philippines, Yemen, Vietnam, India, Kazakhstan, Jordan and so many others….all while staying in one place….my classroom. I have learned from this experience – although I was the instructor.
Walking into my classroom has been an experience in diversity unlike any other. I have learned about your culture, values and religious practice. I have been to a student’s home to break Ramadan, listened to the pride you have in your countries and your hope for the future. I have heard stories from you about being referred to as ‘terrorists’. I have empathized with your stories of isolation and discrimination in the
United States. I have given class absence permission to
return home for medical treatment when you are unable to get proper treatment
in the United States. I have also heard about your successes in adjusting. I have heard many of you tell stories of good people in the United States.
My Peace Corps experience helped me relate to you on a more personal level. I know the discomfort of being dropped into a foreign country and adjust to a new culture, learn in a second language (which I never did well), eat foreign food, miss family, try to make friends and fit in to a new life. I had different religious values, had to return to the
for proper medical attention and struggled in many of the same ways as you. I have listened to your readjustment journey.
I have watched your knowledge, language development and dreams grow. I have celebrated with you during graduation when most could not have family in attendance. Few have been given the opportunity to grow in this diverse world in the way I have. I will miss my students and wish you well in life. I hope I have left you with a better understanding of the United States as well as a few business concepts, theories and stories that you will put into your toolbox of life. I will remember your stories, your faces and the time we spent together fondly.
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn - Ben Franklin
Thank you for involving me in your lives.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Years ago three of us rented on
Border Avenue; a
house for each of us on the same lot. We
were in our twenties. Judy lived with
Bill in a back house. Bill was a strange
guy she hooked up with and later dumped.
That was a good thing. Leslie lived with Dennis in the other back
house. Dennis is an ex who has long
since disappeared from our world. That
was a good thing too. John and I lived
in the front house and had our first son Jay.
We were all broke, surviving on communal dinners, card games, music and
hanging out in our common yard. We had
more dogs than we should, a vegetable garden, and BBQ pot lucks every
weekend. Other neighbors on the block would
join us: Joe and Alice, Teri and Jerry,
Beverly and Richard, and “Old John”, a man who lived next door and loved to be
around young people. Although we were struggling financially, we were rich in friendship.
One Thanksgiving each of us had plans to do the cooking. Family and friends were invited, turkey’s purchased and pies were baking. It made no sense to have a three separate Thanksgiving dinners so we did the only thing that made sense. We moved the furniture out of my living room, rented tables and chairs and had a combined Thanksgiving dinner. It was an odd combination of people. The Monsignor sat next to a very drunk friend who passed out in his plate. Bill went out for a turkey pan but never returned. Leslie’s parents and my parents came from the corporate world, while we were more into the Flower Power 1960s approach to life. So Let it Be – Live and Let Live. It was a memorable holiday.
John and I lived on
Border Avenue for five years before
purchasing the home I still reside in today.
Judy met Larry while on vacation and married
him. They moved to Trabuco. Leslie married Ron and moved to
as well. Beverly and Richard moved up
north. Richard tried to reconnect about
twenty years ago. He and Beverly were divorced. I lost touch with both of
them. Alice and Joe remained in their
house on Border. I saw Orange County Alice in 2006 in the Dollar Store. Joe passed.
Somewhere around 1990 Jerry died from complications of back
surgery. Although I think Teri lives
just a couple of miles from me, we lost touch.
After moving, I had two more boys, Brendan and Kevin. Leslie had a girl, Dana. Judy had a baby boy, Max and almost immediately twins Sara Lee and Alex followed. Life takes over while raising children and managing jobs and careers but during the early years, I would drive to
to visit Judy and Leslie. It was a
special time and there was an unmistakable “Border Bond”. Orange County
Although Leslie and I see one another only a few times a year, we remain friends. Judy drifted from the bond we had formed. Leslie and I missed our friend and we would reminisce on each occasion we got together. When John died ten years ago, Leslie called Judy to give her the news. Judy didn't show up for the funeral or make contact after that. I'm sure she had her reason. It was our last contact.
So, here we are. It’s Labor Day and we are together at my mountain home for a relaxing weekend. I hadn’t seen Leslie and Ron since the first of the year when we met for a ski weekend. We are a little wrinkled. The children are raised. We are retired and Social Security has kicked in. The years have ticked along and we are still wondering about our third partner, Judy. Two thirds never makes a whole. What happened? Leslie dialed her old phone number. It is disconnected. Have we totally lost contact with her? It’s time to put this behind us and renew our friendship. We break out the IPad and begin the internet search. Facebook? No luck. Google? We found a phone number for Max; disconnected. We find Larry, but there is no number. We found Sara’s number and we connect. Judy died in 2008; Lung Cancer.
Judy, Leslie and I had a unique experience in our life that bonded us together. Only those who were part of the Border Bond would completely comprehend it. In the end, life took us in different directions. I miss my friend. A chapter in life has come to a close only opened by memories. So many of the people I cared about and counted on during those Border years are gone; Jerry, Old John, Joe, John and now Judy. Life is short and unpredictable. I regret that I didn't have the opportunity to say goodbye. This journal is as close as I can get …. Goodbye my dear friend.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
I don't know if anyone will read this anymore, but I think it's time to revive this blog. It's always nice to hear from readers and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
I've been returned from my Peace Corps assignment for three years. I've slipped back into teaching college management courses on a part-time basis. I take my dog to the park. I tutor my grandchildren. I am a volunteer consultant with Executive Service Corps working as a coach for a new Executive Director, and I am going to start volunteering with Schools on Wheels, an NGO whose focus is to tutor homeless children on Skid Row in
I tutor my granddaughters, Ava and Mia. We call it home”fun” because learning should not be work when you are six and two. Actually, regardless of age learning should never be work. It's fun to create learning games and activities to teach reading, geography and math. But I have to be honest. I'm good at teaching literacy, but I’m lost as to how to teach math. So I hired an amazing Math Tutor, Mary, who is helping Ava learn early math concepts. I'm learning from Mary. She shares in my perspective of learning; it’s important to not only learn, but create a love for learning. About Mary
Ava's summer focus has been reading and storytelling. She just entered first grade and she is a fluent reader. She has written simple stories about things she has done over the summer and we are going to bind them into a scrapbook. As she writes and draws wonderful pictures of her activities, I often think about my own journal and how much I miss it. Children are influenced by what they see. Mia wants to do all the same things as Ava and so she does home”fun” working on letters, shapes and numbers and making her own colorful summer scrapbook.
This journal will be about giving my grandchildren a glimpse into their past as well as mine, being a role model for the love of writing, being able to think on a more deep level and finally, finding the little things in life that will help me not take myself too seriously. And so, stay tuned for round two of this blog ....